An experienced medical coder brings not only enhanced productivity due to application of appropriate codes, but also knowledge of the diagnosis and procedure coding proclivities used by an organization’s healthcare professionals. They are also able to identify potential red flags and other nuances that can affect reimbursement. The benefits of working with highly trained coders are obvious as are the disadvantages of losing such coders; coder turnover disrupts productivity, which can lead to coding backlogs and increased DNFB along with higher administrative costs associated with backfilling open positions.
Finding and keeping talented coders isn’t an obstacle that facilities face alone; many outsourcing vendors face the same challenges. This became extremely evident in the fall of 2015 during “the great coder conundrum” where a shortage of experienced coders created a highly competitive talent marketplace during the ramp up to ICD-10. Our 2015 HIM Benchmark Survey revealed that as many as 60% of facilities planned to work with an outsourced coding vendor to fulfill their staffing needs at that time. However, now that the dust of ICD-10 has settled, facilities are finding that even vendors fall short when it comes to coder retention. Why is that? We believe that it comes down to the type of investment that outsourced vendors make in their coding staff.
During the ramp up to ICD-10, vendors of all sizes began offering substantial sign-on bonuses to attract coders and fulfill staffing needs. Unfortunately, for many vendors this is where their investment in coding talent ends. While an attractive sign-on bonus might be an upfront financial investment in outsourced coding, it is not a significant investment in coder quality or employee satisfaction. Great vendors know that these are two metrics that lead to long-term success and increase ROI for partner facilities.
In 2015 we launched our managed coding solution, Enterprise HIM, to provide long-term outsource solutions for our clients and employees. Key deliverables in Enterprise HIM include a rigorous and disciplined knowledge transfer and coder onboarding process coupled with an HIM operations team who works with coders to improve skills. All of this is part of a long-term agreement, ranging from 12-36 months, during which we continuously invest in our employees through ongoing education and training.
Over the past year, we have implemented this managed coding solution in more than 15 health systems nationwide and last month we published the first Enterprise HIM Case Study. In a previous blog post, we discussed the ways in which a managed coding solution can lead to higher quality scores for coders. We also found that a managed coding solution can reduce coder turnover. On average, our Enterprise HIM clients see 30% less coder turnover when compared to our clients with traditional staffing engagements.
There are several reasons why a managed coding solution plays a significant role in reducing coder turnover. Coders benefit from more stable long term engagements with support from a team of experienced HIM professionals, as well as competitive wages and benefits and ongoing education. In depth on the job training to learn new EMRs or client specific processes helps reduce onboarding time and get coders working quickly. Coders also receive support by working directly with their assigned Coding Manager; someone they can go to for immediate coding support. These are experts that can answer coding questions, help with client processes, and talk through different coding scenarios. If a coder is struggling with productivity, the coding manager can provide support to ensure their success. Coding Managers help build the skills of the coders on their team which helps prepare them for more advanced roles.
Investing in our medical coders by building their skills helps us deliver higher quality coding to our clients and makes us the employer of choice for coding talent. Reduced coder turnover is just one of the benefits of a managed coding solution. We also found that our Enterprise HIM clients see increased quality and reductions in the amount of time it takes to identify and hire qualified coders. You can learn more about these insights by downloading our full Case Study here:
What are your thoughts on this approach to reducing coder turnover? Are you employing different strategies to maintain talent? I value your comments. Please them below.